Aground!

After an extremely foggy start in the morning which saw us taking refuge in Canso for a couple of hours (allowing us to get a good shop in at the local Co-Op), we crossed over Chedabucto Bay/Straight of Canso to St Peter’s where we had a short wait for the canal to open for us. Being at mid tide, the rise in levels through the single lock was just inches.

We spent three nights on a mooring at St Peter’s Marina taking advantage of laundry, showers and wifi and managed some minor repairs to the monitor windvane, did another shop, sampled the best crab we have ever had and then pushed into the Lakes proper, through St. Peter’s inlet, a winding channel leading up to the lakes.

The wind was light so we opted for the Spinnaker, flying it for all of 30 seconds before the wind completely died with no signs of return. We bagged it and headed towards Malagawatch harbor – tucked well in behind several islands on the western side of the lake where our guide told us to expect to see Bald Eagles.

The entrance to Malagawatch was convoluted and one had to stay alert to stick within the channels or run the risk of running onto the shoals. We got to the designated anchoring spot and all of a sudden the depth sounder starts doing weird stuff… while the chart said we were in 30 ft, the depth sounder went all over the place – and right up to 3 ft! – 3’6” less than we need to float! So we backed out and anchored in a stable 30ft. Not a soul in sight. Not a Bald Eagle in sight either however! Then one by one they started visiting… two species of biting flies – a large black one and a large green one. Even though we were equipped with multiple fly-swatting weapons, we couldn’t keep them at bay, so we decided retreat was the best option and we weighed anchor and left.

We slowly re-traced our exact path (as told to me by the electronics aboard) back out of the anchorage when all of a sudden we come to a screeching halt. We’ve run aground. I try to back off – no joy – stuck fast. We launched the dinghy and loaded her up with 200’ of chain and our main anchor and I headed out to open water and dropped everything over. (Now, that would have been an interesting event in the Green Demon!!!) We brought the anchor rode back in with the windlass until the chain was bar taught – she could not bring the boat around and out. Even with engine power assist.

By now the afternoon wind had filled in to 10 to 12 knots  – so we decided to try to heel (lean) the boat with the sails – thereby reducing our effective depth and giving some more motive power to getting out. We raised both Genoa and then the main sail and she leaned, and we stayed put. OK, we need a kedge!

Kedging off is not something we’ve done before (we were attempting to do it in Scotland when Bertie came to our rescue with his big dinghy) and entails setting an anchor at 90 degrees to the boat and attached to the top of the mast so that you can lean the boat over, reduce effective draft and float free of the shoal… Fortunately, since our Scottish escapade, I’d done a lot of reading about how to set the anchor/rode up properly – so this time around we were more methodical. We assembled our ‘Fortress’ anchor (should be perfect for this silty muddy bottom) and attached our 300ft long drogue rode which we brought to one of our main winches by way of two snatch blocks – one attached to a masthead halyard, the other to a padeye on the deck. Again, I took the dinghy out and laid the rode out and finally dropped anchor probably about 200 ft away from Toodle-oo!

We set the anchor with the halyard block down low and winched in till the rope was tight – thereby setting the anchor, then we slackened a little and raised the halyard to almost mast height and then started cranking the winch…

Meanwhile, we’re still getting bitten by nasty flies!

It takes a lot to heel Toodle-oo! and we were monitoring the heel with an irritating iPhone App that kept yelling the angle every time in changed – 10.2 degrees, 10.3 degrees, 10.4 degrees, 10.5 degrees, 10.6 degrees, 10.7 degrees,… I was having to crank pretty hard to get just this level of heel – so we augmented with our electric winch, getting her over to about 15 degrees, before that winch started to complain.

We weren’t getting anywhere except more concerned. I called Sydney Coast Guard to establish the current tide level – it took them about 15 agonizing minutes to come back with “there really aren’t tides in the lake, but currents affect water-level and best guess is that you’re at high water. (Not what we wanted to hear).

Meanwhile, we’re still getting bitten by nasty flies!

I carried on winching the kedge and hauling on the bower anchor and every so often trying to motor out… After some time Sydney Radio came on asking if we needed assistance from Halifax Coast Guard – we told them we were still trying and would let them know soon. I think this discussion spurred me on a bit as I cranked the boat through 25 degrees of heel…

Meanwhile, we’re still getting bitten by nasty flies!

Finally, after 2 hours, the boat suddenly began to move and all of a sudden we’re off!

Crack!

With the boat able to move, she quickly fell in line behind the main bower anchor while meanwhile our kedge anchor was now a stern anchor and the rode from masthead to anchor went right through our wind generator’s blades – severing one blade at the root! Rats!

So now, something else we’ve never done – deploy and retrieve more than one anchor!  But it proved pretty simple (even if it did take another hour!) – drop back on the main anchor until we could retrieve the stern anchor – which was absolutely buried in soft gooey and stinky mud. Once up, we brought in the main anchor and we were finally off!

By now it was approaching 7:00pm so we went across (the deepest part of) the inlet and anchored in a bay like area in about 40 ft. The flies were finally dissipating (bedtime for them?) and we were able to sit out in the cockpit and reflect.

It had certainly been an unexpected incident. We don’t think we did much wrong to cause the event and in the end I was pretty happy about how we’d managed to get out – though next time, perhaps I’ll remember to turn off the windbugger to save the $360 replacement cost of the blades!

We slept well!

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